In December of last year, after it was confirmed that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee with the intent of influencing the presidential election, President Obama announced sanctions against the country, which included the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and the closing of two Russian embassies. Not surprisingly, Russia did not take these actions lightly.
Russia is even more upset with the United States now, after the Trump administration flip-flopped on turning the embassies back over to them. Members of the administration originally said that they would consider returning control of the properties if Moscow lifted its freeze on construction of a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. However, a couple days later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian officials that the U.S. had dropped this offer.
Presumably in response to the president and his staff reneging on the deal they proposed previously, two tweets were posted on Thursday morning saying that Russia will retaliate if the U.S. doesn’t “restore diplomatic immunity of Russian property.”
The first tweet, which was posted by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can be seen below.
‘If the US doesn’t restore diplomatic immunity of Russian property, Russia will reply in kind regarding US property in Russia.’
— MFA Russia ?? (@mfa_russia) June 8, 2017
Another tweet from the Russian embassy in the U.S. shared a similar message.
‘If Washington fails to restore diplomatic immunity of [Russian] property there will be a tit-for-tat response in regard to US facilities in Russia.’
— Russia in USA ?? (@RusEmbUSA) June 8, 2017
Shortly after these tweets were posted, Russian officials confirmed to CBS’s Margaret Brennan that the messages were serious. They also announced that they will be “asking President Trump at an upcoming meeting in Moscow to return” the properties.
The Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, also told BuzzFeed that control of the properties must be returned because they were “seized unlawfully.”
‘We insist that [the property] needs to be returned. It’s a violation of the Vienna Convention. It belongs to Russia … It was seized unlawfully.’
Despite their ambassador’s insistence, if a bipartisan group of lawmakers have anything to say about it, control of the compounds will not be returned to Russia. The group, which includes Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Amy Klobouchar (D-Minnesota) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), sent a letter to Trump on Wednesday urging him not to give in to Russia’s threats.
The letter read, in part:
‘Returning the compounds to Russian control is unjustifiable.’
‘It would both make it easier for the Kremlin to continue its intelligence operations in our own backyard and make it clear that they can avoid consequences for their actions. We strongly advise against it.’
Hopefully, Trump will, for once, take the advice of someone other than Steve Bannon and choose not to succumb to this pressure from Russian officials.
Featured image via Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images.